I have been completely absorbed in the the space trilogy by C.S. Lewis of late. Actually I read the first of the three, Out of the Silent Planet last summer, but recently purchase the last two, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. They are books that I imagine I will be re-reading again in the future because there is so much there.
It was as I was reading That Hideous Strength that I came upon a passage that really impressed me. It is a quote by a character named Dr. Dimble as the final battle is beginning. He is on the side of good, but there are mysteries that he is grappling with that are hard for him to fully understand and his leader, the Director, has commanded him to accept. As he is discussing things over with his wife he says:
Have you ever noticed,.....that the universe, and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?....I mean this,....If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family- anything you like- at a given point in its history you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and that there;s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and codices are even more momentous Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possiblities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing." pg.280-281That captured my attention, and it is further fleshed out in the story. We are, for a time, gathered in and then - as with the Biblical image of a winnowing fan - we are separated out. There are examples of situations that are accepted as morally neutral or tolerated as a necessity of an era in the Bible, but that eventually are revealed as unacceptable, such as Old Testament polygamy. It is certainly presented in the Bible as something that is accepted, but it is definitely a falling from the original Biblical example of marriage. And if you read your Bible carefully you see that though it is not wrong for Jacob or David, to have multiple wives and concubines, it costs them something. Look at the jealousies and rivalries that come of it. The eventual splitting of the Davidic Kingdom has it's beginnings in the corrosive effect of polygamy. And the cost is sent on down the generations, until it is time to see and understand; until it is time to make a choice. As we progress through salvation history, or even our own lives it will eventually come down to a choice, a terrible choice that requires clarity of vision and tenacious clinging to the Word of God. Our eternal destiny will rest on it.
These thoughts have been turning over in my head for a while now, the passage just brought new clarity for me, especially in the wake of some acrimonious discussions over the issue of "gay-marriage". But it is not that issue that primarily bothers me, that is one of many moral issues that are confronting us in our time. It is how we are coming to a point in our society, and choices will have to be made, and I wonder how clear we, as a culture, see the issues. I wonder if we have been given just enough of Jesus in our religious instruction to make us think that we know what His love means, but in reality we have inoculated ourselves from being truly overtaken by His radical love. His radical love is not tepid "acceptance" or "tolerance", it is a purifying fire. Unless you have ordered your life on the Commandments, putting His will in front, it will be difficult to understand what a shallow sham our culture has made of love, and from there a degenerative blindness seems to set in. Even when the choice is presented point blank, it becomes too difficult to proceed in the way of the Spirit.
Today's reading (for Saturday, April 28) makes this even more urgent in my mind:
"Many disciples of Jesus who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life, But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." John 6 60-69
This is at the end of the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus is telling his followers to believe that they must "feed on me" or they will have no life in them. They are shocked, they are confronted with something hard to believe, something that seems foolish and not rational (verse 42: and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"). Many of the Lord's disciples no longer walked with Jesus from that point on. But Peter shows us that he has clung to and believed in the words of the Lord, and when confronted with the choice - though he is as yet not perfected in his belief, nor does he completely understand what the Lord is saying- his love for the Lord clears the way for his courageous words. And it is this choice that prepares Peter to humbly trust in Jesus, even after his betrayal of Him, he does not despair in his failure but receives with trust and conviction the abundant mercy of the Lord. How can we navigate ourselves in this era of hardening and narrowing of our own beliefs? How can we discern the will and love of God in a time when love is perverted, materialistic, weak and used to blind and divert ourselves from the Truth? To whom shall you go? To whom shall you cling to? A terrible choice is beginning to emerge-choose life, not death.
Peace and Grace,